The times, they are a’ changing. The Dodgers have issued press credentials and full media access for select Dodger bloggers:

I had a chance to talk to Josh Rawitch, Vice President of Communications for the Dodgers, about this intriguing shift in policy.

“As we all know, [the] world of information consumption is changing dramatically and as an organization, we recognize that many of you who are dedicated fans also have the ability to speak to other fans around the world,” said Rawitch. “We want you to be as informed as possible and the best way to do that, as the mainstream media has known for centuries, is with access to those who make news and make decisions.”

The Dodgers first official engagement with the team’s leading bloggers was in April of 2008 when Rawitch hosted a “Blogger Night” at a regular season game. The team provided a luxury box as the venue and offered an open forum with owner Frank McCourt, General Manager Ned Colletti and Special Advisor to the Chairman (and Dodger legend) Tommy Lasorda. The team followed up with a similar event in March 2009 at the new Camelback Ranch Spring Training facility and then again in May 2009 at the second Blogger Night at Dodger Stadium where Colletti and Executive Vice President of Creative and Communications Dr. Charles Steinberg answered questions from the bloggers in attendance.

Here’s a report from one of those bloggers, and this item by ShysterBall pretty much echoes my feelings on the subject.

It is inevitable that the Reds will do something like this. It may be years from now — the Reds aren’t the most progressive organization in baseball — but it will happen eventually. Things are just moving that way in the sports world. The Dodgers are simply ahead of the curve (actually, the Dallas Mavericks were first to this party).

Frankly, I’m not interested in being in the press box at Reds games. Sure, I could make my nightly recaps more detailed and interesting, I suppose, and there would be other benefits … but I like to cheer for the Reds. They’re my team! No cheering in the press box, you know.

In other ways, however, some access would help us provide better coverage of our favorite team for you guys. For example, when Bob Castellini took over as owner, Redleg Nation requested, and was promptly denied, access to Mr. Castellini’s first press conference by the gatekeeper, Rob Butcher (Reds Director of Media Relations). That’s fine; I understood their position at the time (what if a blogger shows up in their pajamas???), and you can’t just allow any yahoo off the street into your press conferences.

But the Dodgers have felt the winds of change, and they’ve figured out a way to determine which bloggers have earned the right to that access:

“…there’s a very exciting buzz online about extending our reach into the world of social media. As long as our fans are informed and talking about the Dodgers and sharing their passion for the team – the highs and lows – it has the chance to be a really good thing. In addition, it connects the Dodger brand to fans around the globe (and those who aren’t even fans yet), which is important to us organizationally.”

Major League Baseball is also watching. “They were very supportive,” said Rawitch. ”Pat Courtney, Vice President of Communications at Major League Baseball, basically said, ‘Good for you…let us know how it goes.’ I’d imagine they’re going to keep an eye on this, as it’s a topic we’ve all talked about regularly at our annual PR meetings for a couple of years now and this is part of the natural progression.”

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. There’s no question that some type of access would enhance RN’s ability to bring you the most interesting coverage of the Reds possible, and would definitely make the podcasts even more fun.

We won’t be requesting credentials from the Reds, however. We’re just going to keep talking about the Reds and operating a responsible outlet for connecting with Reds fans from around the world. We’ll leave the press box to the pros, John Fay and Mark Sheldon.

After all, we like cheering for the Reds too much.

8 Responses

  1. CeeKeR

    Interesting – I wonder if it would help spur interest in some of the small market teams (Pirates, Royals, etc.) to open up the press box to bloggers…especially if the season was a “wash.” Might be something to keep people talking about the team – which ultimately should equal more money for the team being talked about!

  2. Mr. Redlegs

    Well, the short end of this issue is that for a hundred years teams have relied on newspapers to publicize their product. In the end, both parties won. But with the rapid deterioration of the newspaper business and attrition of writers, the press boxes are becoming lonely places. Put yourself in the Dodgers’ shoes.

    The most recent fallout at the LA Daily News found beat writer Tony Jackson fired. How papers fire their baseball beat guys in-season is mind-boggling, especially a tireless guy like Jackson, who also provided great content online and several other regional papers through a content share agreement with the Daily News.

    With Jackson gone, the Dodgers found themselves with just 3-4 print members in the box on any given day and only two traveling with the team. That’s the No. 2 market in the country.

    The long end of the issue is with so many former print writers going online to services such as AOL, Yahoo, CBSSportsline, ESPN.com, Fox and a few others, there’s more of a comfort zone among the teams with online journalism. Gradually, slowly, as the blogosphere continues to mature, we’ll see more fan sites have access but I think it will be very selective. If you’re a site that screams bloody hell at the manager’s every move and wants players released after each at-bat or pitch, forget it. But of you’re a site that offers creative and constructive overview and analysis of the team, you’ve got a very good shot at one day soon being credentialed.

    As for Rob Butcher, meh. I agree that it will be difficult to get him to change ways. He cooperates and grants access to whom he likes and on what subjects he approves. That’s part of being the hired gatekeeper, but some teams and their media coordinators aren’t as controlling.

  3. Chad Dotson

    I agree 100% with what Mr. Redlegs says above.

    The whole Tony Jackson situation was bad, and he was the second Dodger beat writer fired recently, I believe. Cincinnati’s a smaller market, and I’m concerned about when the other shoe is going to drop (Rosecrans being the first shoe).

    The Dodgers have figured out a way to determine which blogs are most reasonable and deserve access (I’ve looked at those blogs, and they’re aren’t always well-written, BTW). It will be interesting to see other teams grapple with that. It’s going to happen everywhere eventually.

  4. GRF

    I am curious what everyone thinks about the Clippers PR guy making annonymous pro front office posts on a Clipper fans blog. As the newspapers continue to decrease in importance, I am sure there is going to be more of this sort of thing, and I do not think the ground rules are well established.

    As an aside I was driving back from PA yesterday and caught the game on the Indians station. They were killing Wedge for not pitching around Gonzalez. Words I never thought I would hear.

  5. RiverCity Redleg

    Alot of Colleges have already embraced this idea. The guy that runs the University of Kentucky Sprts blog that I follow has been given access to all of the press conferences and a media pass to all games. And he had no connection to the university other than starting a fan blog about the team. He’s been sitting on press row for two years now.

  6. Chris

    At this point, it’s pretty easy to see what a given site is like, and whether granting them some level of access is a good idea. I’m with Chad: I’m glad they’re doing it for some guys, but I have no interest. I was headed down that path, and chose another. I love Aaron Harang, but don’t want to see him in his underwear.

  7. Shawn

    And T. Jackson was another Cincy Post guy. I’m really worried about Marc Lancaster. Although Joe Posnanski seems to be doing pretty well.